Girls and young people claim their political space | Opinion

A 9-year-old girl forced to work in a brick factory in Kabul.Ebrahim Norouzi (AP)

One October, more than 200 years ago, the Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens was made public. Its criminal preamble states that forgetfulness and neglect of women’s rights cause social evils. His demands, however, were neglected, or perished at the mercy of the tyranny of the times; as happened to its creator Olympe de Gouges. As happens with so many women who want to be involved, while their claims are forgotten and they are ostracized. A reality condemned by Plan International’s reports on the state of girls for three decades.

Today, international law enshrines the political participation of girls and young women through the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) or the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CDN). No nation in the world now officially bans women from voting, whereas by 1960 only half of the countries protected that right.

But the gender and age gap in leadership remains. 2021 was the sixteenth consecutive year of abrogation of political rights and civil liberties. Something that was accelerated by the covid-19 pandemic and the context of overlapping crises. The effects of climate change and rising food and fuel prices resulting from global conflicts are causing the greatest hunger crisis in history. This particularly affects girls and young women, forced to give up the public space to take care of the home, marry or become mothers prematurely.

This reality is clarified in the report “Equal Power Now: Political Participation of Girls, Adolescents and Young Women”, the annual State of the World’s Girls survey conducted by Plan International based on a survey of nearly 29,000 adolescents and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 from 28 countries, including Spain. It shows that the majority of girls and young women around the world feel undervalued, undervalued and undervalued because of their age and gender. Their participation, when permitted, remains mere witness intervention.

As the study reveals, girls and young women face persistent obstacles in their access to decision-making spaces. Nine out of ten interviewees say they are not satisfied with politicians’ decisions. In Spain, only 14% of them believe that politicians understand their point of view, and 64% have lost trust in them. In fact, their frustration affects their emotional health: 42% feel stressed, worried or nervous; and 32%, sad or depressed. The situation is more critical globally, where 19% of respondents were personally discouraged from participating in politics and half felt that their contribution was not accepted by their community.

Although their ideas are patronized, if not ignored, and although they are discriminated against, the majority of girls and young women (95%) agree with the importance of active participation. In fact, neither the disillusionment with formal politics nor the isolation they feel prevents half of those surveyed worldwide (46%) from participating in elections at all levels to try to transform the social, political, economic and cultural realities of their communities .

This willingness to participate is reflected in the work of the girls and young women who are part of Plan International’s youth groups, such as youth for change (Youth for Change). This group of young Spaniards between the ages of 16 and 22 have not only participated in events held in regional and national parliaments, but have also taken their petitions to the UN General Assembly or the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25). They are the engine that drives our organization to accelerate gender equality.

After completing the first decade of the International Day of the Girl, the commitment they show to issues such as poverty and unemployment, conflict or climate change is proof of their undeniable determination to achieve more sustainable, inclusive and egalitarian societies. Their claims today, as decades ago and centuries ago, are a way of asking us to pass. They demand that we step back, open the doors of parliaments, ministries and city councils, take their place at the decision-making table and respond to their demands and needs.

At the current rate of progress on gender, it will take 155 years to achieve equality in global politics. Shall we condemn them to oblivion for another century by our inaction?

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